Chris Boardman has said that “political courage” is needed to advance plans for cycling infrastructure in London and that the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has missed the opportunity to maintain the momentum built under his predecessor, Boris Johnson.
Boardman, the former world and Olympic champion, now policy advisor at British Cycling and Greater Manchester cycling and walking commissioner, was speaking yesterday in front of the London Assembly’s transport committee.
The meeting (which you can watch here – livestream starts at around 13 minutes 30 seconds) also heard from Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster, Simon Munk of the London Cycling Campaign and Matt Winfield of Sustrans.
Many campaigners have been disappointed by what they see as a lack of progress made by Khan since he took office in May 2016.
“The current administration didn’t take input from previous lessons and so have encountered many of the same problems,” Boardman said.
“Regrettably, Andrew Gilligan [the city’s cycling commissioner under Johnson] was not consulted by the current administration. I
“I would hope this wasn’t a party political thing,” he said. “We plan to use his knowledge in Manchester.”
Boardman, who met with Khan prior to his election to emphasise the need for safe infrastructure for the capital’s cyclists, added: ““if we were looking solely at the evidence for progress, it should be the car lobby fighting to keep road space, not cycling trying to gain it.”
Aldred, whose work includes the Near Miss Project, spoke of the way cycling is perceived in Britain and agreed that there needed to be a desire on the part of politicians to ensure decent infrastructure was built.
She said: “There is not necessarily a single baddie, but a paper I’ve written previously found that many consider that you have to be a bit brave to cycle and that quickly turns cycling into a marginalised activity and one deemed by many to be for the eco-warrior.
“That creates undue hostility which simply doesn’t exist elsewhere in Europe.
“Political will is often therefore the biggest barrier, perhaps even more so than financial constraints. In respect of London there are varying levels of support within TfL and within the boroughs. We haven’t yet managed to mainstream cycling across the board.”
Boardman touched on the way cycling is often perceived in the mainstream media, saying: “Negative news surrounding cycling unfortunately spreads disproportionately, so politically cycling is treated with caution.
The DfT in particular I’ve found to uncomfortable with upsetting the status quo and we have to push quite hard for progress.
“There are some very obvious quick wins that we can fight for,” he added. “British Cycling’s Turning the Corner campaign, for example, would bring us more in line with the rest of Europe. This has been demonstrated to deliver efficiencies for all road users, including a 47 per cent enhanced efficiency for motor traffic.”
In December 2017, Khan announced plans to double spend on cycling in London to £770 million from 2017/18 to 2021/22.
Current projects that have been the subject of recent consultations include Cycle Superhighways running from Kensington Olympia to Brentford (and ultimately, Uxbridge) and from Greenwich to Tower Bridge.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.